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Prof. K. Ganapathy's Corner - Retaining Traditional Healthcare in Digital Health

Written by : Dr. Ganapathy

May 6, 2024

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Digital Health (DH) is a multi-disciplinary domain encompassing every component of healthcare where digital technology is primarily used.  The World Health Organization defines DH as “A broad umbrella term encompassing eHealth, as well as emerging areas, such as using advanced computing sciences in ‘big data,’ genomics, and Artificial Intelligence”. 

Virtual Reality, business analytics, blockchain, and other emerging technologies are included. DH also includes telemedicine, wearable devices, mobile health applications, and remotely accessible Electronic Health Records.

Globally most of the media reports, news items, blogs, social media coverage, conferences, presentations, and publications deal with the myriad DH applications constituting the  “DH industry”.

Belonging to the BC era (not before COVID  but before Computers!), I am an endangered species – a medical doctor who spent many decades in the OT, OP, and wards directly physically interacting with thousands of patients, simultaneously understanding and enthusiastic about the deployment of cutting-edge ICT (Information & Communication Technology)  in healthcare. 

I  firmly believe that when “selling” a product in healthcare, the question “So what?”- should be answered.  Evidence ultimately has to be provided, that the addition of yet another, new, DH tool is indeed making a difference in the healthcare outcome of the individual seeking healthcare.

I agree that we are in a stage of transition, and the availability of concrete evidence will take time. At present many “innovative” DH tools are being accepted based on surmise and logic.  High-pressure marketing and salesmanship cannot be excluded as is the necessity to “Keep up with the Joneses”.

Trust among all stakeholders of the ever-expanding ecosystem in DH is critical.  These, and other issues and concerns, not normally addressed, will be discussed in each future communication from a clinician end user and a beneficiary’s perspective.  

Gone are the days when healthcare was all about a one-to-one personal relationship between a patient and a doctor, whose only work was to make a diagnosis and treat. Today even the terminology has changed.  In the era of Digital Health, we talk about a Healthcare Provider, a beneficiary, a 12-digit unique ABHA number, insurance policy coverage, mPHR, and so on.

Somewhere along the way, while producing a tech-savvy ICT AI-enabled Digital Health, clinicians have inadvertently dehumanized and depersonalized the family physician of yesteryear, who was, the be-all and end-all of a whole family. Do we need to stress that DH is at best an enabler and we still need to spend quality time just listening to the patient? Are we winning the battle to lose the war? 

While discussing cutting-edge, futuristic developments in DH, which would make a CXO, CIO, CTO, and CEO salivate, my take-home message in every one of the ensuing discussions would continue to dwell on the absolute necessity for getting into the mind of the beneficiary and satisfy his/her individual needs.  

Happy reading to our steadily increasing number of readers. Please feel free to send your bouquets and brickbats to  📧 ganapathy@digitalhealthnews.com


About Chime India

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is an executive organization dedicated to serving senior digital health leaders. CHIME includes more than 5,000 members in 56 countries and two US territories and partners with over 150 healthcare IT businesses and professional services firms. CHIME enables its members and business partners to collaborate, exchange ideas, develop professionally and advocate the effective use of information management to improve the health and care throughout the communities they serve. CHIME's members are chief information officers (CIOs), chief medical information officers (CMIOs), chief nursing information officers (CNIOs), chief innovation officers (CIOs), chief digital officers (CDOs), and other senior healthcare leaders. The CHIME India Chapter became the first international chapter outside North America in 2016 and is now a community of over 70+ members in India. For more information, please visit www.chimecentral.org

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